Sunday, 28 August 2011

Tales of a stressy landscaper

Tribley Farm in Grange Villa, County Durham is fast becoming one of my favourite spots of the year to shoot landscapes. What I like about it is the wide open views to the east and the west, making it ideal for shooting both sunrises and sunsets. In the morning you can turn you camera to the west and shoot the dawn light hitting the landscape as the sun appears above the horizon and for evening shoots, it’s great to swing 180 degrees and capture the last light of the day illuminating the fields to the east.
            On this morning I chose to shoot towards the coast and get the ball of the sun as it appeared, with the landscape below it. Quite a simple task usually- all you have to do is set-up and wait, shooting the pre-dawn light whist you do so. Dawn is absolutely my favourite time to shoot- it’s quiet, calm and I love the sense of solitude you get from being one of the few people crazy enough to be out of bed at such a ridiculous hour! However, at the same time I tend to find it stressful. I do it every time; get up with loads of time to spare (like- up to 2 hours before dawn, depending on where I’m traveling to) get out on location (which I’ve usually scouted out in the daytime to plan my shots) set-up my gear and then start the wait. Yet every time the sun starts to show up I start panicking! I know it makes no sense, but I always find something wrong with my equipment at that key moment, or I decide I don’t like my shooting angle after all- or in the case of this morning, I’m suddenly bugged by flare.
You are always going to get some flare when shooting into the sun like this, even with a lens hood and UV/Skylight filter, but this time it was rendering many of my shots unusable and I couldn’t find the cause. I Ended up running up and down the length of the field I was in, trying to get a different angle, but nothing was helping. Being of a nervous disposition, this wasn’t making the experience all that enjoyable- they probably heard me swearing in Penshaw (about 10 miles away or something!) Eventually I concluded that it was something to do with my ND Grad Filter and upon inspecting it I found a small scratch that was showing up like hell with the lens stopped down. It wasn’t a problem at other times of day, but with the sun this low and shining straight down the lens… I removed the filter, concluding that I will need to invest in a new one and shot the rest of my images bracketed, so as to merge them later in Photoshop. See some of the morning's shots below.
It was around about now that my blood pressure started to rocket

I loved the mist that started to roll in- there was literally that one patch infront of the sun

Shot wide open at f/2.8 to trow the background out of focus
Also shot with a 70-200mm lens

Cropped to 5 x 4 - I figured if I could pretend I was shooting larger format film it would make me feel like a better photographer. Eat  your heart out Joe Cornish!
 It would seem fitting that for future dawn shoots such as this I should take the advice of some of my friends (yes I have some…) and “Chillax.” The term, whist not sounding wholly dissimilar to something you’d use to treat an ice burn (or constipation), seems to have a lot of meaning these day, especially to a stressed-out landscape photographer. After all a dawn shooter is probably that above all else- chilly.

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